Baxters hails 'sensational' Crusaders as Glenavon boss raps ref
Glenavon 1-6 Crusaders
Manager Stephen Baxter last night hailed talisman striker Jordan Owens as Crusaders roared five points clear at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership table.
Owens grabbed a sensational hat-trick to take his tally for the season to 17 in this demolition of Glenavon at Mourneview Park.
Gavin Whyte also hit a glorious double, while Paul Heatley got in on the scoring stakes to make it a miserable night for Gary Hamilton's boys, still smarting from their shock Irish Cup defeat by Loughgall.
It looked so good for the Lurgan Blues when Mark Sykes shot them into an early lead, but it was all downhill after that.
"We knocked the ball about really well and got the goals at the right time," purred Baxter. "Our response after their goal was excellent. We should have been two or three goals up before they scored. When you have players of the quality of Heatley, Whyte and Owens, you've got a chance.
"I'm glad those boys are in our team and we don't have to face them. Jordan was sensational. He was back to his best. He's been getting there and his goals were top drawer.
"That performance has been coming for a while now. But it's only one game, it's important to stay focused. No one will be getting carried away."
It was the Lurgan Blues who achieved the breakthrough on 17 minutes with a wonderfully executed goal. Josh Daniels was the architect - he rolled a great pass into the path of Sykes, who ghosted past two defenders before he drilled the ball home.
But a howler from Rhys Marshall gifted Crusaders an equaliser nine minute later. His attempted backpass was gobbled up by Owens, who danced past the challenge of the advancing Jonny Tuffey before finishing.
Whyte then burst into action, testing Tuffey with a 30-yard drive before forcing the over-worked shot-stopper into another magnificent save.
But Whyte did eventually find a way past Tuffey, hammering the Crues into the lead on 39 minutes from the penalty spot.
Whyte skipped past the challenge of James Singleton before crossing for Philip Lowry, whose shot was handled by defender Andrew Doyle. Referee Raymond Crangle awarded the spot-kick and Whyte did the rest.
Glenavon roared from the traps after the restart with Sammy Clingan stinging the hands of Brian Jensen with a free-kick.
But Owens struck again on 48 minutes. Whyte took off down the right and crossed for the striker, who fired home a header.
And it was all over as a contest two minutes later when Whyte arrowed into the bottom corner.
The goals just kept on coming. It was Heatley's turn 18 minutes from time when he latched onto a sublime pass from Billy Joe Burns, and he lofted the ball over the sprawling Tuffey.
Owens then claimed the match ball in the last minute when he volleyed home.
For Glenavon boss Hamilton, it was another bad night at the office.
"We were hard done by with the penalty decision," said Hamilton. "That was a game changer. Andrew turned side-on and it hit him on the outside of the arm from two yards away.
"The two quick goals after the break really did us as well.
"The scoreline didn't reflect our performance, we were well in the game. Refereeing decisions just didn't go our way."